Coco Avant Chanel

COCO AVANT CHANEL (Alliance, 2009) D: Anne Fontaine,.

COCO AVANT CHANEL (Alliance, 2009) D: Anne Fontaine, w/ Audrey Tautou, Benoît Poelvoorde. Rating: NNNNN DVD package: NNN Rating: NNNNN

Early in the 20th century, Gabrielle Chanel comes out of the orphanage, works as a seamstress and sings in saloons for tips. Along the way, she acquires the nickname Coco. When work dries up, she becomes a rich man’s mistress, but falls in love with one of his friends.


This isn’t a static biopic, but rather a fluid exploration of the young Coco Chanel’s emotional life. Her approach to her clothing is treated as just another facet of her personality, and nothing telegraphs her brilliant future.

Audrey Tautou delivers Coco with remarkable stillness and an intent gaze that radiates cool intelligence.

The men in her life are well rounded in their own right, particularly Etienne Balsan, played by Benoît Poelvoorde, who reveals the dignity and vulnerability beneath the character’s boorish surface. Like Coco, the men express their feelings with graceful restraint.

Anne Fontaine’s thoughtful commentary (in French with English subtitles) and the making-of doc have interesting things to say about mixing fact and fiction and Chanel’s historical importance.

EXTRAS Commentary, Chanel historical importance doc, seven-part making-of doc. Widescreen. French audio. English, French subtitles.

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